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This smartphone interface is a real kick

Use this new smartphone gesture interface and you might just get a decent workout--and notice people giving you a wide berth.

kick gesture interface
This interface lets you turn your workload into a workout. Video screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET

Admit it. There have been times when you've wanted to drop-kick your phone into the next county. But would it be satisfying to use kicking gestures to control your phone? An experimental interface lets you do just that. The idea is to provide an alternative input method when your hands are occupied.

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. and the University of Manitoba in Canada are developing a smartphone interface that lets you kick to flick, zoom, and navigate menus. The researchers used an Xbox Kinect and tablet to simulate the interface and studied how people do with the kick gesture. A working version would use your phone's camera.

The researchers found that people can reliably kick in five directions and at two velocities, which provides enough variety for useful phone control. (See the video below.)

This could be the first smartphone interface that presents a non-negligible risk of getting you arrested. Kick someone on the sidewalk, and I'm guessing the smartphone-gesture-interface defense isn't going to get you very far with the assault charge.

You've got to love the understated language of research papers:

Further areas for consideration include the social acceptability of such gestures and the minimum space requirements for performing these gestures.

Watching the video, I see at least one potential problem beyond safety and social acceptability. What if the interface misinterprets a step as a kick? Many people use their phones on the go, and this could lead to confusion and frustration. It'd be like having a poltergeist in your phone that gets annoyed whenever you start walking.

I hope this interface is developed for people who need it, and it might have some potential for gaming. But I'm having trouble imagining a scenario where I'd need to use something other than my fingers or voice. What do you think?

(Via New Scientist)